Come for Machu Picchu, stay for the ceviche. Peru is arguably South America’s top spot for dining, thanks to a gastronomical renaissance of sorts over the past decade with Lima reigning as its culinary capital. The world has taken notice of the inventive creations emerging from tiny kitchens around the country, ranging from classic Peruvian dishes like fresh seafood ceviche to the more adventurous cuy al horno…AKA roasted guinea pig.
The most popular foods in Peru typically centre around the staples of a Cusqueñan diet, which are rice, soup, corn, potatoes and meat. At many restaurants, lunch and dinner are a multi-course affair with an appetizer, main course, dessert and drink. If you stick to the set menu, you’ll see big savings compared to ordering off the regular menu, like a dinner special of garlic bread, pizza and a glass of wine for about $7 USD, versus $9 for just a pizza.
Whether you’re lucky enough to be travelling in Peru, or just want to satisfy your craving at home, here are some crowd-pleasing drinks and Peruvian food to try.
The Peru national dish is ceviche (or ‘cebiche‘), which is a delish combo of raw, fresh fish drenched in lemon or lime juice, garnished with red onions and seasoned with spices like chili peppers. It usually comes with a side of bright orange sweet potatoes and fat kernels of corn. Ceviche is commonly made with trout, and can sometimes also include shrimp, octopus and calamari.
Be sure to order from a reputable place, as a bad batch of seafood never does a traveller any favours. Second, request that the kitchen only spices it mildly if you don’t want your tongue to feel like it was lit on fire–those chilis can pack a punch!
How to make ceviche:
The key to making tasty ceviche is to use very fresh, zesty ingredients, and eat it shortly after you make it. There are quite a few variations when it comes to recipes, depending on what kind of fish and veggies you use or what region you’re in. The classic national dish of Peru uses sweet potato and corn, whereas modern takes on it see the addition of ingredients like coconut milk or ginger.
Leche de Tigre
Once you’ve polished off your ceviche, get set for round two of sampling famous food in Peru: tiger’s milk! Leche de tigre is basically the same as ceviche minus the fish, usually served in a small glass, and has the same tart juices. Essentially, it’s a fish cocktail with lime, chili and cilantro, garnished with crab, shrimp and plantain chips. Peruvians also swear this tangy dish is both a hangover cure and aphrodisiac.
How to make Leche de Tigre
Depending on how you present it, leche de tigre can either be consumed like an appetizer or a drink. Here are couple of different preparation options:
Just when you didn’t think you could handle any more citrus, may I present the pisco sour. This tasty, refreshing cocktail is the signature drink of Peru, made from pisco liquor, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg whites which make a fluffy layer of white foam on the top.
A pisco sour tastes similar to a lime margarita, and is best enjoyed on a sunny outdoor patio. As an added bonus, you can usually find them on special during happy hour in Peru. Be sure to stop after sipping a couple if you have trouble holding your booze, as pisco sours can pack a punch!
How to make a Pisco Sour
- 2 oz pisco
- 1 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup (half sugar, half water)
- 1 egg white
Combine all of the ingredients into a shaker with ice, and shake vigorously, then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with Angostura bitters.
If your Peru plans include a stop in Cusco or climbing Machu Picchu, you’ll quickly become familiar with coca tea. This herbal drink is made by pouring hot water over several whole, dried coca leaves, which help ward off altitude sickness. You’ll find it in most hotels and restaurants in the Andes, and it comes in a tea bag or as loose leaves which you throw straight into a mug and pour hot water over. Coca tea is also fantastic with a bit of sugar mixed in, and delivers a caffeine kick.
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